YANGON, Myanmar: At least 15 people were killed and dozens injured in a landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar’s jade mining region, state media and officials said Sunday.
Fifteen bodies were retrieved from the site of Saturday’s accident near Lonekhin village but a search was ongoing for more, said Sein Myint Tun, a police officer in Hpakant Township in Kachin state, adding that the dead included 14 men and one woman. He said searchers were hindered by heavy rain.
According to the Myanmar-language New Light of Myanmar, a state newspaper, there were 15 dead and more than 40 injured.
Khin Maung Myint, a member of parliament for the area belonging to the ruling National League for Democracy, said he saw 18 injured people from the Saturday accident at one hospital in Myitkyina, the state capital.
Such accidents are not rare because scavenging for jade remnants is dangerous and not well regulated. More than 100 people were killed in a single landslide in November 2015. The accidents usually occur at the foot of giant mounds of discarded earth that has been mined in bulk by heavy machinery.
The number of missing is difficult to estimate because most scavengers are unregistered migrants from other areas.
Hpakant, 950 kilometers (600 miles) north of Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, is the epicenter of the world’s biggest and most lucrative jade mining industry.
The industry generated about $31 billion in 2014, with most of the wealth going to individuals and companies tied to Myanmar’s former military rulers, according to Global Witness, a London-based group that investigates misuse of revenues from natural resources.
Local activists said the profitability of jade mining industry led businesses and the government to neglect enforcing already very weak regulations in the industry.
“Actually, local authorities already had ordered the shutdown of these sites as this is rainy season and everybody knows that kind of disaster easily happens during this season,” lawmaker Khin Maung Myint said by phone, adding that the freelance miners “are very difficult to control.”
He said he believes that many of the victims of Saturday’s landslide were ethnic Kachin youth from a refugee camp in Kachin state’s Waingmaw township.
The region is enmeshed in an armed conflict between the government and the ethnic rebels of the Kachin Independence Army, which has driven many civilians into refugee camps. —AP